Sunday, February 1, 2015


I'm leaving Bad with Conviction behind and moving on to a new blog.  You can find me now at over at No Scar to Show  Hope to see some of you there.  

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Pouring it Out

I've always said that I can't write when I'm happy.  Anytime life has been smooth sailing, both my creativity and productivity have suffered.  Words flow out of me when I'm stressed or depressed or angry.

Well, they did.  ]

Turns out there's a point down the line in the other direction where the walls go up and block the outlet I desperately need.  I sit and stare at a blank screen and actually feel my anxiety and desperation increase instead of abate.

I've never felt my writing is anything particularly special, but I have managed to produce a few pieces of which I'm proud.  And if nothing else, it's been a cheap and effective form of therapy. The ability to create, to pour out myself onto a page, has been one of my most precious gifts.  And now I feel it has been ripped away along with so many other parts of me.

I feel.
I think.
I hurt.

I want to bleed out this bitterness and clear my mind.

But I can't.  Or I guess I don't.  Sometimes it feels like the same thing.

I struggle too much in my own life to create one on paper for someone who doesn't exist.
Choosing the right words and tone is part of my survival kit and I can't waste my resources on a poem or a song.
I don't have the energy to create.
And I don't have the courage to be raw.

It's like a whole other misery to overcome, another loss to mourn.

But as usual, I won't go down without a fight.

I will write.  It may not be anything I am proud enough to share, but it will be mine.  I am not going to let the darkness take any more light from my life.

I'm not waiting for anything to improve.  Expect the worst and hope for the best and keep on writing.  Maybe I'll put that on a tshirt.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Recycled Crap from Facebook that I'm Substituting for Original Material

So it appears that I can't produce a blog post to save my life, but I can rant on Facebook all the livelong day. Seriously, my statuses and comments verge on epic, not necessarily for content but for sheer length.  Anyone who thinks I talk at great lengths in person should know that I can go on for DAYS when I'm writing.  And if you're my Facebook friend--or possibly even a friend of a friend--you know this is da God-honest TROOF!  

Until I can produce a proper blog post, I've decided to just share some of my soap box moments from Facebook these past few years.  If I feel so inclined, I may even add a few more thoughts I've thunk.  These are in no particular order.  I have tried to include some sort of contest.  

(As you read these, keep in mind that 95% of them were shared from my phone.  I have mad texting skillz, y'all.  Also, I tend to Facebook late at night after taking my sleepy time meds, so I'm not always 100% coherent.)

From a Status on Depression:

"When u post stuff about depression don't u worry people think ur depressed?" [this was from a "concerned" friend]

I'll answer this for everyone: no, I don't. Isn't that kind of the point? That people shouldn't be ashamed? That talking about it will help people feel less alone?

Whether you are depressed or not, there are people around you who are hurting. It may be a family member or friend. A co-worker, a neighbor, a student. Posting information that encourages them, makes them feel less alone, or shines a light in the darkness is GOOD. 

We share jokes, pictures of kittens, and items we hope to win. Why not share something that could save a life?

Now let's talk about how your grammar and spelling is causing my depression...

Comment from "Two Mommies on Good Luck, Charlie" Discussion

How many kids who watch this show also have two mommies? I wonder how they felt to see a family like theirs on television? People don't have to agree or think that's it's right or moral, but the reality is that there are so many HAPPY families with gay parents. Why should any child grow up thinking their family isn't a "real" family? I can't imagine being excluded from playdates or birthday parties because people thought my mothers (or fathers) were sinners. I can't imagine going to school and listening to my friends parrot their parents and talk about how "bad" or "nasty" gay people are. 

To those who wouldn't let their child go to the home of a friend with gay parents, would you let you child visit with a friend whose mother never married? Who had children out of wedlock? If we're getting Biblical, isn't that just as much of a sin? 

If people don't like it, they don't have to watch. There are plenty of other children's shows that don't have gay people. And by plenty, I mean pretty much all of them.

Got a little off subject there. Oh well. It's Tuesday.  

From a Status about School Violence and Shootings

Newtown, CT had one homicide in the past ten years. People from other towns moved there BECAUSE they felt it was a safer place to raise their children. Despite their status as a safe town, though, local schools had emergency plans in place and had practiced lock down drills. This fall, Sandy Hook Elementary had also implemented additional security measures that visitors being required to ring a bell for entry once doors were locked in the morning and checking identification.

If someone is intent on destroying lives, he or she will find a way to do so. However, we have no way of knowing how many lives were saved yesterday by teachers who knew what to do, kept a calm head and DID IT.

Last February, after a young man opened fire in an Ohio high school, frequent shooting situation DRILLS and teachers ACTING QUICKLY were credited for more lives not being lost. That day, I posted the following cry to parents. I want to post it again. As a teacher who has worked in schools who NEVER had lock down drills (and where teachers were given no training) it scares me to think that there are children sitting in classrooms who are even more vulnerable.


Regardless of whether your child attends public or private school, make it YOUR business to know the following information:

1. Does the school have an emergency plan in place if there is violence?

2. Do the teachers and staff know the emergency plan? Are new teachers trained each year/ semester?

3. Are the students REGULARLY led in lock down and evacuation drills?

4. Does YOUR child personally know what to do in an emergency, even if an adult is not available to give instruction?

I urge you to talk to administrators, teachers, and YOUR CHILD. Never assume that steps are being taken to keep your child safe.

Please repost and share with other parents. We cannot control the evil and sickness in our world, but we can better prepare ourselves to protect our children from it.

Comment from Discussion on Plural Marriage (this came from a 131-comment fray after I posted a status about the show Sister Wives)

Let's talk about our society--where so many marriages end in divorce, you can get married as many times as you want, women have multiple children with multiple men that they never marry, men walk away from their children before they're even born, there are drive-thru wedding chapels, and Kim Kardashian can make MILLIONS of dollars on a sham of a wedding. This is what has become the sad normal. At least this guy has committed (yes, to four women but it is commitment) and stuck around to support these women and children. He's been with the first three wives for 20 years. In our sick sad world, I have to say I admire that. So many people can't hold a marriage together with TWO people involved and somehow they've kept this entire flock of people together. At one point, they all lived under the same roof! And at the same time, they are sharing a husband (and they admit there are jealousies). Why is it they can hold it together when so many marriages fail? You know their answer? They cite not only their commitment to their vows but their faith in God for getting them through.  

So when it comes down to it, YES, I support the family on Sister Wives over what this world so often sees as "normal."

Comment on Marijuana Legalization Discussion (there are a bunch of these but I picked one)

I'm all for legalizing it period. Heck, you'd think other states would follow suit after seeing how Colorado is taxing the sh** out of it. But it should DEFINITELY be legal for medicinal purposes. There are drugs for boners and longer eyelashes, but someone with a debilitating disease can't smoke a J? Ridiculous. Oh, but here you go. Here's some Oxy for the pain. 

Comment about Huge Families (prompted by a discussion about the Duggar family)

My grandmother had 13 kids, too, though one died young. But that was a different time. Those kids weren't expected to graduate from high school and while they were there take chemistry, geometry, Spanish, etc. They didn't have to be driven to ball games or Scouts or church choir or birthday parties on Saturday. Yes, the older kids helped with the little ones. The older kids also worked the farm and labored in the fields. If any of us us "subjected" our kids to this now--didn't make sure they were prepared for college, didn't allow them a "social life" or take them to birthday parties, didn't involve them in clubs or activities, made them do HARD labor as a young child--people would be ANGRY. We would be terrible parents who "deprived" our kids and "put too much on them." Life was VASTLY different back then. 

Now our kids are pampered. They don't wear clothes that were passed down through four or five other kids. They don't quit school to help support the family. They don't have to work for ANYTHING. How many people who came from those big families--especially the poorer ones--ever even GOT a birthday party? Why on EARTH are we preparing a 13 year old for motherhood? This isn't our grandparents' generation. My grandmother ran off at 16 and married. Yeah, she needed to know how to be a wife and mom. My grandmother's goals when she married my grandfather was to escape an alcoholic father and have food and a warm place to stay. My grandfather sent half of his paycheck home to support his younger siblings. I want my child to go to college and have a career and have kids when SHE is ready. It's not my place to make her be a "mini mommy" at 13 or 14. We are not living in the 1930s anymore. Our kids have to get an education, they have to have experiences that increase their chances at getting a good scholarship from a college, they need to be ready to face the world. The world is a hard place. I feel that it will take every ounce of me to prepare her for it, to make sure she is good and moral and strong. How on EARTH would I prepare NINETEEN kids for this world? I guess I could keep them in a bubble, but I want more than that for my Amelia. 

There is a difference between "helping" and having a younger child assigned to you and being a mini-parent. There is a difference between picking up toys or reading to a sibling and being partially responsible for their emotional well being. I guess since none of those kids go to school, they don't have the problems other problems face with kids coming home bullied or broken hearted or complaining about teachers. So I guess in that way, they CAN handle the emotional growth of their kids. When a sibling is the bully, you can punish them. When there are no little boys or girls to "have a crush" on, there are no hearts to be broken. When you are the teacher, you KNOW what happened in the classroom that day. ( I still question how you educate that many different aged kids but that's for another day's debate)

It's not that I question that they LOVE their kids. It's obvious they do. It's giving each kid the needed one on one time they deserve. Maybe their kids just don't have any big problems. I guess I'm jaded from teaching for so long (hell, or even my OWN problems as a teen!!), but I just don't see how you meet all of their emotional needs. Again, I'm not insinuating they are BAD parents. I agree there are A LOT of kids who would be better off in the Duggar family. But Christian or not, I refuse to believe that a person can be an equally EFFECTIVE parent to 19 (almost 20!) as they can to even 4 or 5. 

I have to ask this because I've wondered before but didn't have anywhere to ask: if the Duggars were just very MORAL people but not professing Christians, would the Christian community be so quick to embrace them? What if they were in the EXACT same circumstances and they were all happy and healthy and loved, but they weren't believers? What if they didn't say God had called them to this life? What if they just REALLY liked having kids?

And there was this comment later on in the discussion:

I too know a lot of kids who had to pretty much raise younger siblings. Some were because their parents were unfit or had addictions. Some had a good parent who had to work two jobs to make up for the crappy parent. Some had parents with debilitating diseases like cancer. Not all of those kids who had to step up and be parents to their younger siblings were screwed up. Some ended up being stronger because of it. But they all struggled with the loss of their childhood and innocence. 

As I said earlier, in the Duggar's case, taking care of a younger sibling isn't so traumatizing. There are parents present to help. They live in a safe neighborhood. The kids are at home all day. They are a "best case" scenario. My students often lived in bad parts of town. They were latchkey kids. They had to try and finish homework while helping their younger siblings with homework and fixing dinner. It's a totally different situation.

Comment Defending Phillip Seymour Hoffman Follwing His Death

In his defense, he sought treatment for drug and alcohol addiction at age 22 and had been clean for 23 years. In the world of drug addiction, he would have been considered a success story and an inspiration. But an addict is never cured, only in recovery. Last year, he had a relapse. He once again sought therapy, but it looks like he wasn't able to fight those demons this time. 

People like Hoffman are a testament to the struggle of drug addiction. He wasn't some party animal rock star or celebrity embracing the bad boy/girl image. He was a father who lived a private life when he wasn't creating near perfect performances on film. He was humble and by all accounts of those who knew him, very kind. He had access to the best treatment available and he seemingly had every reason to fight his addiction. But he died alone with a syringe in his arm. 

No, it isn't fair that non-famous people are labeled "junkie" and their deaths are only mourned by the few family and friends who loved them despite their struggles. But I also don't think it's fair that two decades of living clean and flourishing in his industry while raising three children should be discounted because he overdosed.

Everyone deserves compassion. Everyone should be remembered for the good in their lives. No one should be defined by his demons and shortcomings.

Each life is important.  Some are just lived in the public eye.  

On Calling School Off in the South Due to Extreme Cold

I've noticed that many who bitch about the schools letting out for extreme cold either don't have kids or are the "haves" who can't wrap their heads around living in poverty. When I taught high school in Memphis, I'd see kids walking in 20 degree weather in nothing but a sweatshirt. Buses didn't run to students who lived within a certain radius of school. By the time I'd pull into the parking lot, my car would be crammed full of shivering teenagers. 

I can't figure out if some people are just clueless about how the other half live or if they just don't give a damn. No child should have to ride a freezing bus for an hour or walk to school without heavy winter gear when it's in single digits. It's cruel.  If I see one more status about spoiled, sissified kids or one more post about "well when I was young," I am going to snaaaap.

I do get the parents who are frustrated because they have to find childcare, but that's just part of being a parent. How many teachers have to find last minute childcare or a last minute sub when their own kids are sick?

Comment on Discussion about Santa

I grew up believing in Santa. It was a neat part of Christmas. My parents didn't use him as a behavioral tool or threaten us with waking up to an empty tree. He was just a magical part of Christmas. We left him a snack and wrote him letters. In addition to our gifts, he would leave us a letter. And they were such precious letters because our parents got to speak through Santa. I always looked forward to that letter as much as I did the presents.   

We never officially stopped believing in Santa at our house. It was never a conversation or an issue. I didn't want to give up Santa. It was such a special tradition with my parents and brother. But I got old enough that I knew the truth and I appreciated that my parents went through the trouble to make it magical. 

Santa comes to our house. He leaves Amelia a couple of gifts and we provide the rest. Not because we want credit but because we know she's going to talk about what Santa brought and we don't want another kid wandering why Santa gave him so little. 

We don't do Elf on the Shelf but have a stuffed elf who is our helper elf. She gives Amelia special missions each day to help others and show true Christmas spirit. 

We aren't liars. We're just continuing traditions that were special to us.

Comment About a Mom Being Criticized for Her Child's Meltdown

I've seen my fair share of bratty, unruly, God awful kids, but I do know someone with a child about that age who is on the autism spectrum and who also has some other issues mentally. He's pretty bright but he's a mini time bomb. Screaming, hitting, total rage. She never knows what may set him off and how he may react to something. Sometimes it's because he didn't get his way but sometimes it's because he's over stimulated by something around him (crowd, noises, etc.) When he gets that worked up, she has to just walk away (which she can't do in a store). I'm not saying that is the situation here. This may have totally been a kid who needs a knot jerked in him. Just pointing out that sometimes the mom is doing the best she can, and there are situations where it's not a result of bad parenting. I try to give parents the benefit of the doubt. Even if the child is "okay," we never know what is going on at home or in the parent's life at that moment.

Comment about Churches and Depression

Sadly, the church is rarely a place where the mentally ill and those who are desperate and hopeless feel comfortable to lay their burdens. 

You know, when people have cancer or any other potentially fatal illness, how many people tell them, "It's Satan." How many people question their faith?

"Oh, you have a lump in your breast? How's your prayer life?"

Once the church and it's people are ready to treat depression and other mental illnesses like actual ILLNESSES, maybe they can make a difference.

On an Atheist Student's Editorial Being Pulled from a School Paper 

Before people start applauding the school, let's consider this hypothetical situation:

The student in question is not an atheist but a Christian. The area isn't Lenoir City, TN, but somewhere with a heavy Muslim population, say the Dearborn, Michigan area. 

What if that student felt pressured to pray to Allah? What if teachers were writing scripture from the Qur'an on the blackboard? What if that student wrote an article about feeling uncomfortable as a Christian in his own school and the administration stopped the school paper from printing it? 

I dare say that the Christian community would jump up and down, angry that this student's rights as a Christian are being trampled.

Look, I attend church. I beleive in God. I also spent ten years as a public high school teacher. I firmly believe public school is not the place for religion. Students go to school to be taught, to be prepared for college or the work force. They don't learn calculus or chemistry at church. If parents want religious doctrine to be included in their children's school curriculum, then they need to place them in private, Christian schools or homeschool them. 

It seems most Christians disagree with my views, so let me throw out another scenario to consider:

What if Christianity WERE part of a student's public education? Now, which denomination gets to create that curriculum? Who gets to teach Bible classes? A Baptist? Church of Christ? Pentecostal? Methodist? Catholic? Mormon? Who makes sure that someone of a different denomination isn't indoctrinating your child with his or her interpretation of scripture? What about morning prayer? Will students be required to "cross" themselves? Speak in tongues? 

If religion becomes a part of public school--even if that religion is Christianity--there is too much division between denominations and belief systems. It would just become one more war to detract from why the kids are there: TO LEARN. 

We are supposed to have freedom OF religion in this country, but doesn't that also include freedom FROM religion? Doesn't each person have the right to choose whether religion will be a part of his or her life?   

Students are allowed to pray in school--as they should be--but I don't agree with adults leading them IN prayer (unless it is in a club or group that the student has CHOSEN to join). If we lived in an area with more teachers who were Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist, parents might reconsider pushing for school-wide prayer because it might not be limited to Christians.

Before you push for relgion or prayer in schools, consider the fact that your religion isn't the only one and we don't all pray to the same God.  Let the teachers handle the math and reading and leave the theology for home and church.  

Friday, January 3, 2014

I'm Back. Well, Not Really

Just an update for my very few loyal readers that I'm alive and kicking.  I don't know when I'll be blogging again.  There isn't an ounce of creative juices flowing through me right now, and I can't write the things that are on my mind and in my heart--at least not to put on display for the world.

                   “Modernist Typewriter” by Sarah Lentz

I am keeping a list of ideas for when I am able to sit down and focus on writing again.  Thank you to those who have contacted me through the blog or through Facebook and offered encouragement.  It's nice to know that there are folks who enjoy my writing enough to miss it.    

I know life will feel normal again at some point.  I know I'll have the time and focus and energy to sit down and do the one thing I do for myself.  I even have a nifty Chromebook to use now!  No more blogging from my phone!

Until then, blessings to anyone who receives this transmission.

Amber out.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Little Cart of Horrors

Peanut and I hit up the local grocery store today.  I only needed eight items and we had a little time to spare, so I thought I'd let la petite push around one of those miniature shopping baskets. You know, something fun for her that would also let her feel like a big girl.  It would be a learning experience, a little adventure.

And it was.

I learned that those little carts are the worst idea ever. 

My ten-minute shopping trip turned into a half-hour-plus odyssey, with a three-year-old steering the ship.

She immediately took off running through the store the minute her little paws touched the handle. She narrowly missed taking out a little old lady before I finally caught up with her.  I told her that she had to slow down and watch where she was going.  She took off again, looking at her feet.  I stopped her a second time, reminding her to look up, not down.  She dashed down the dairy aisle, looking at the ceiling.

I caught up and grabbed the front of the cart, steering her toward the milk.  I placed a gallon inside the basket and leaned down to explain to her again how this works.

"Stay behind Mommy and follow me, okay?"

"Yes ma'am."

As I peeped over my shoulder, she seemed to have the hang of it now and pushed the cart carefully.  I stopped at the eggs and picked up a carton of six.  Suddenly, searing pain shot up the back of my legs as the little metal buggy rammed me in the heels.

"Sorry, Mommy!"

Thankfully I didn't drop the eggs, but I did drop a word I'd rather my toddler not repeat.

It only went downhill from there.

She couldn't steer, so she attempted to turn the cart by picking it up and moving it.  Of course it tipped over and I dove to grab it before the contents could crash onto the floor and explode.  This happened twice.

She ran into one person's leg, another person's cart, and a free-standing display.

She alternated between walking at the speed of smell and running like she was being chased by killer bees.  She never could quite figure out how to watch where she was going.

(In the midst of all of this, there was also a mad dash to the bathroom when my newly potty-trained daughter shouted, "I have to peeee!"  I literally dragged the cart (and her) across the store, shouting "Excuse us!" over my shoulder at people we nearly mowed down.  The pee crisis was averted and we went back to the Buggy Debacle.)

I gathered the items on my list and finally reached the far side of the store, where the frozen items are kept.  I breathed a sigh of relief as I began looking for the final item on my list.  I grabbed a bag of corn and turned to put it in the cart.  The cart that wasn't there.  The cart that was propping open the freezer door while my daughter pillaged the ice cream.

"No ma'am.  No ice cream."


"You have popsicles at home.  You don't need ice cream."

"I do!  I do need them!  I'm sooo hungry."

"I'm not arguing with you.  C'mon and bring the buggy."

I started to walk away.  She quickly caught up and quietly pushed the cart to the front of the store without incident.  We were almost to the checkout line when I glanced down and noticed a box of orange Pushup Pops peeking out from under a couple of other items.

"I said no ice cream."

"But I'll share with yooooouuuuuu."

She said it so sincerely, so sweetly.

I thought about how important it is to stand my ground, to not give in to her demands, to be consistent and prove that I mean what I say.

Then a little, tired voice inside my head whispered, "Pick you battles, girl."

I sighed and continued toward the front of the store, Peanut trotting happily behind me.

As we took our place in line, the woman in front of us turned around and saw Amelia at the helm of the little cart.

"Aw, look at her!  She is so cute with her little buggy.  Are you helping Mommy?"

Peanut smiled her big, goofy smile and nodded in the affirmative.  She looked at the woman and then at me, beaming with pride.

I bit my tongue, patted her little head and told the woman, "She's doing her best."

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Introducing Sophia the Second

Our new puppy is home and settling in with her new family and surroundings.  Since we got her to be our daughter's puppy, we let her pick out the name.  Peanut loves the show "Sofia the First" and decided our dog should be "Sophia the Second" (spelling changed since we're calling her Sophie for short).  

I don't have much more to add than that, so here are a few pictures of our newest addition since we sprung her out of prison.  

Friday, September 27, 2013

Our Newest Addition

Our family grew by one today when we adopted a six-month old pointer puppy from the pound (say that five times fast).  There is absolutely no logical reason for us to do this considering (A) we already have two senior citizen dogs, (B) we aren't currently living in a house with a fenced in yard, (C) my husband works seven 12-hour midnight shifts in a row, and (D) I only three days ago got my toddler officially house brok... I mean, potty trained.

So why on earth would I agree to take on a new puppy?

I can't explain it.

The picture that started it all
Last night, someone shared a picture of the puppy on Facebook.  The puppy was in another town where I have friends (and where my husband works).  I re-shared the picture  nd even tagged my husband, never dreaming he would even consider getting her since we'd agreed no more dogs for the time being.  We'd even told our little girl she'd have to wait until next year.

This morning, my husband said he wanted to go and look at the puppy.  He fell in love with her sweet little face and wanted to meet her.  We've always had a heart for dogs, especially the ones people throw away, but I knew it was going to add more responsibliity to my plate.  I didn't protest, though, and immediately called the pound to inquire as to whether or not the dog was still available.

I was told that she was still there, but that we would not be eligible to adopt her since the ACO who brought her in labeled her a "pit" on her chart.  Anyone adopting a pit is required to have a fence check. Since we live in another town, we wouldn't be able to meet the requierments.  I told the woman at the pound that I didn't believe the puppy was pit--and she even agreed--but said that it's not up to her to change the breeds.

I took to Facebook, posting our problem underneath her picture.  I found out that people had already started sending emails in an effort to get her breed changed.  I also sent an email that included pictures of pointer pups, asking for a chance to adopt her.  Within an hour, I received a message that she had been "relabeled."

The first picture he sent when he met her
I called my husband and he went to the pound immediately.  He called me to tell me how sweet and calm she was and how he thought she'd do well with our daughter and dogs.  I could tell he was very excited.  To sweeten the deal, she'd already been vaccinated, spayed and microchipped.  I put my worries aside and told him I was okay with him adopting her and bringing her home.

Taking a well-deserved nap in the quiet hotel room

He signed the paperwork, paid the adopton fee, and headed to Petco to get her some gear.  Right now, he has her back at the hotel with him.  We will get to meet her Sunday when we go to visit, and then she'll come home with him on Tuesday.  I'm super nervous but excited.  She won't make my life easier, but I know she'll make it fuller.

More details and pictures soon!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Day Five: You Cannot Be Replaced

This week, To Write Love on Her Arms asked people to answer the question, "Why can't you be replaced?"  I've actually assigned a similar journal prompt for my students in the past, and the replies were often heartbreaking and shocking.  It's an important issue for each of us to ask ourselves.  It goes beyond acknowledging what we're good at doing or what we provide for others or even who loves us.  Being irreplaceable gives our lives a deeper sense of purpose.   

I have a three-year-old daughter who has given me a deeper respect and appreciation of life.  It's not that I necessarily didn't enjoy living; she has just made life richer and more precious.  I know that I cannot be replaced in her life.  Yes, someone could meet her basic needs.  They could feed her, clothe her, provide for her.  Someone could even meet her emotional needs.  They could love her, encourage her, comfort her, support her.  But when it comes down to it, no one could replace me as her mother.  Her father loves and adores her.  Her grandparents think she absolutely hung the moon.  But I know that no one feels for her what I feel.  She grew inside me for nine months. I felt her first movements.  I rocked her to sleep before she ever took her first breath in this world.  I was the first person to hold her, to kiss her little face.  I love her in a way that I didn't know it is possible to love.  It doesn't mean I'm a perfect mom.  It doesn't mean I don't get angry or frustrated.  Actually, the fact that she's so much like me pretty much guarantees that I get angry and frustrated sometimes.  But I look at that little girl and know that there is nothing she could do that would make me love her any less.  I would go to any length to keep her safe and healthy and content.  If I were taken from this earth, I know she would be loved and I know she would be cared for, but there is no one who could truly replace me as her mother.  I don't say that to brag on myself or diminish anyone else's love for her.  I say it because it's just true.  

I cannot be replaced.

Everyone needs to know and to acknowledge why he or she can't be replaced.  It's important that we have a grasp on our worth in this world.  

Sometimes people begin to feel like they are a burden.  Or they feel like life doesn't have purpose, that they aren't important.  Depression lies and one of the biggest lies it tells is that you are worthless or meaningless.  

Some people don't feel irreplaceable.  They may even think their loved ones would be better without them.    

So here's my challenge to you today.  

First, I want you to decide why you absolutely cannot be replaced.  Then I want you to write it down, either privately or publicly.  Write it in a journal or on an index card.  Send it out in a Tweet. Leave it as a comment on this post.  But somewhere, write down why you are irreplaceable.  And if you can't figure out a single reason why you cannot be replaced, then you find someone who knows you, who loves you, and you ask them.  It may be awkward at first since that's not the kind of question one asks on a regular basis, but you find out why you cannot be replaced.  Because you can't.  

After you've done that, I want you to see out at least three people and tell them why they are irreplaceable.  You may do it face to face, over the phone, in a text, on a Post-It note, on their Facebook wall, wherever and however you'd like.  Tell someone why they cannot be replaced, what makes them original and indispensable.  Choose anyone you'd like to tell--a family member, friend, co-worker, the barista at Starbucks.  This is something we all can do.  I'm not asking you to talk about mental illness or suicide or anything that might make you uncomfortable.  I'm asking that you encourage at least three people in your life in a very important way.  

And if it goes well, then do it again tomorrow.  And the next day.  Make sure everyone you care about knows why you are valuable to them.  

You cannot be replaced.  

Say it.

I cannot be replaced.  

Now go make a difference.  Love to each of you.  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Day Four: Remembering Those We Lost

Today is the 12-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on 9/11.  On social media, thousands have shared their memories of that day and have paid tribute both to those who lost their lives and those who risked their lives to save others.  I was teaching high school English that Tuesday morning and had arrived at school after the attacks began.  I was not watching as the second plane struck the tower.  In fact, the south tower had collapsed before I even knew there had been an attack.  My 2nd period class streamed in, some of them crying, asking me why I didn't have my television on. They talked all at once, about planes and explosions and falling buildings.  I went to my computer first, to verify that what I was hearing was true.  Before I could pull up the CNN website, one of my colleagues stuck her head into my classroom.  

"Have you heard?"

She quickly filled me in on what she knew.  I turned the television on and started watching.  The students continued to file into class and many of them gravitated toward the television.  Then one young lady said, "Please don't make us watch it.  Someone jumped.  We saw it."

I wanted to know what was happening in New York, but when I saw her face, I knew that it was more important that I turn off the television and just be there for my students.  

So the television was turned off.  The students sat down.  I took attendance.  And I let them talk and ask questions and comfort one another.  

Later that afternoon, I went home.  I felt a little like I'd spent the day in a time warp since I hadn't watched television and spent limited time on the Internet.  I immediately turned on the news and tried to piece together what had happened over the past eight hours.  I watched the plane crash into the tower, the fires burn, the buildings fall.  I listened to all the details, of the attacks in New York and in Washington, of the heroes who had lost their lives in a Pennsylvania field.  

And then I saw the footage that had upset the girl in my 2nd period.  I saw the people fall.  Or in many instances,  jump.  

I turned the television off.  I didn't watch again, limiting myself to written news and specific videos on the Internet.     

Of all of the images of that day, those of men and women falling to their deaths has stayed with me the longest and affected me the most.  

"Officially," no one actually jumped.  The lives lost that day were all homicides.  And I don't disagree with that ruling since none of them would have fallen from the building if it hadn't been attacked.  But there are witnesses who watched people leap from windows, some holding hands with others.  

I think about those people, looking down as the fire and flames closed in on them.  I can't imagine the fear, the pain, the hopelessness they felt.  They knew they would not be rescued from the heat and the suffocation.  They were desperate for fresh air, for an escape from the inferno that raged around them.  

I don't know their names or their faces, but I will never forget those images.   

This week is National Suicide Prevention Week, and I can't help but think again of those people. Please don't misunderstand.  I don't believe that those who jumped that day actually committed suicide in the sense that they chose to take their own lives.  Their lives had already been ripped away from them by those who hijacked the airplanes that September morning.  But when I think of the 36,000 Americans who give up each year, who leave behind friends and family to grieve, I have to wonder if they share some of the same feelings as those who stood in the broken windows of the Twin Towers on 9/11.  

I think about the husbands and mothers and sons and sisters who suffered with severe depression, with bipolar disorder, with so many mental illnesses that pushed them to give up on life.  I picture them in my mind, staring out a window, framed by broken glass.  They were afraid.  They were desperate.  They were hopeless.  They didn't know how to save themselves.  No one else saved them, though some may have tried in vain.  Death would be painful, but they believed it would be a release from the pain and suffocation of living.  They saw their lives as a burning building that couldn't be extinguished, only escaped at any cost.  

No one could save those poor men and women at the World Trade Center.  

There are so many lives that can be saved, though.  There are people who feel that same desperation. that same entrapment, that the victims of 9/11 felt.  They aren't surrounded by falling buildings and fires and news cameras, though.  They are sitting in the next cubicle at work.  They are staring at us from desks in classrooms.  We pass them on sidewalks, sit beside them at church, leave comments on their Facebook statuses, share meals with them.  Statistically speaking, right now there is someone you care about--a friend or a family member--who is struggling just to keep living.   And there are thousands and thousands more you do not know--that you'll never know--who are hurting, who are in need of help, of hope.  

IMAlive is an online crisis network where 100% of the volunteers are trained and certified in crisis intervention.  They provide 24/7 crisis support via chat.  There are three things you can do to help IMAlive to help those who are considering suicide:

1.  Spread the word.  Share IMAlive on your Facebook page, Twitter or blog.  Get the word out that help is available.  Don't assume that everyone in your life is "okay."

2.  Donate!  You can donate to IMAlive at any time, but right now you can participate in the IMAlive 24 x 7 Giving Challenge.  Your donation will cover operational costs or even pay for new volunteers to become certified so that IMAlive can continue to provide 24/7 care.  I've provided a widget below.  

3.  Volunteer.  If you'd like more information on becoming a crisis center volunteer, you may find information here.   This is not something everyone is called to do, but it is an opportunity to make a huge difference in someone else's life.  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Day Three: World Suicide Prevention Day

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, a day set aside to raise awareness and to battle the stigmas that surround mental illness.  Events will be held in at least 60 countries around the world, with this year's theme being "Stigma: A Major Barrier to Suicide Prevention."  As I've written in my previous posts, the negative attitudes people have toward mental illness prevents those in need from seeking and receiving the treatment they need.  It dissuades friends and family from addressing their loved ones' mental illness and encouraging them to seek help.  In some cases, even ignorance or prejudice among medical professionals can prevent patients from receiving appropriate treatment.  

In order to reduce the stigma, we must all become more educated and more comfortable with discussing mental illness.  We must also become more comfortable listening to those who are in need and reaching out to those who may not ask for help.  

Below is a list of links I've complied that provide information on mental health and suicide.  Some are more general while others are geared toward certain groups such as parents or teens.  I've also included a list of links and phone numbers for crisis hotlines and chatlines.  It is not only essential that we become more knowledgeable and compassionate, but also to become familiar with where to turn to help if someone we know and love is in crisis.

IMAlive Online Crisis Center (chat instead of talk on phone)
Youth America Crisis Hotline 1-877-YOUTHLINE
National Hopeline Network 1-800-442-HOPE
National Suicide Prevention LIfeline 1.800.273.TALK
Crisis Hotline (also for family members) 1.800.784.2433
Friendship Line 800.971.0016 (24 hour hotline for elderly and disabled and family members)

Several of these hotlines have opportunities for regular people to volunteer and help. With so many people in the world who are hurting--for that matter, with so many people right around us who are hurting--there is always someone who needs a compassionate ear.

If you are seeking additional information and have not been able to locate it, please leave a comment below, and I will be happy to research it for you.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Day Two: Stigma

I wrote a little bit about stigma in yesterday's post.  Even today, there is still so much ignorance and even discrimination when it comes to mental health.  Often, people who are suffering from mental illness know so little about their condition that they don't seek or receive the treatment which they need.   The stigma  may become shame when it is internalized by someone who is mentally ill.  Shame to seek treatment, shame to discuss their illness with others, shame to even admit to themselves that there is a problem.  

Aaron Moore is a licensed mental health counselor and co-founder of Solace Counseling in Orlando.  He recently wrote an article entitled "Challenging Stigma" for the website To Write Love on Her Arms.  What he has to say expresses my thoughts much more eloquently than I could, so I decided to share it here.  I think he is right on the mark when he says, "The more we walk through our struggles in silence, the more we deprive others of the benefit of knowing they are not alone."  If we were to remove the stigma of depression and mental illness and help prevent people from taking their own lives, those who are struggling should feel comfortable in sharing their stories and those who love and support them should be prepared and willing to listen.  

Please read on for the entire article from Mr. Moore:

If TWLOHA [To Write Love On Her Arms] were to update a status for this week, it would read that we feel “hopeful.” Much preparation has gone into 2013’s National Suicide Prevention Week, as it is a unique opportunity to address a topic so often neglected in our world. This week never ceases to be something beautiful, a chance to fight for the lives of loved ones, strangers, maybe even ourselves. At the same time, however, this week can feel like a necessary evil for many of us. It may remind us of those we’ve lost or of our own struggles. In this way, National Suicide Prevention Week is something we wish we did not need, but sadly, we have great reason to engage in. Which is why many organizations and groups are using this time to focus on the stigma and shame that keep these important conversations from happening.

We have said in the past that we know stigma is built on lies. It is founded and fed by the myths we believe about mental health issues and about those who struggle with them. Perhaps it is the lie that suicide only affects people who are “messed up,” the idea that depression only reaches those who are weak, or even the belief that if we share our struggles with someone, they will not understand or care. But the more we learn the truth about these difficult topics, the more we can bring it into the light and move toward healing and recovery, as well as the work of prevention. We have to learn that issues like depression, addiction, and suicide are not partial to weak people, but are struggles any of us may walk through, simply because we are human. We have to continue to filter the lies and myths about mental illness out of our society, replacing them with facts. This will go an incredibly long way toward eradicating the stigma that is still so prevalent. 
But just knowing the truth is not enough. While stigma may be founded on lies, it is also built within a social context, woven throughout the intricate fabric of our relationships. It is within our society and culture that the effects of stigma are felt. These effects range from the silence and shame surrounding mental health issues to the oppressive attitudes toward those struggling, even influencing the way treatment options such as therapy and medication are viewed. The powerful stigma attached to mental health communicates an illusion of separation between those who struggle and those who don't—a false dichotomy between the healthy and the sick. The damage this creates extends across our society and into each of our lives and relationships.  
As we work to reduce the stigma attached to mental health, we can learn much from the fight against the stigma connected with HIV. One main way it was reduced was through learning the truth about HIV—how it was transmitted, who had it, what treatment looked like, and more. This knowledge went far in combating some vicious lies that hurt so many in our society. But some research pointed to yet another component that proved powerful in greatly reducing stigma toward HIV: individuals who had a friendship or relationship with someone who was HIV-positive. Those with a personal connection to someone with HIV were drastically less likely to have a stigmatized, discriminating response.
What does this mean for us? It means we need each other. We need relationships and community around us. It means we have to continue listening to each other’s stories, and we must continue sharing our own. We need to know each other’s accounts of suffering, as well as our experiences of healing and recovery.
Thomas Joiner, one of the foremost researchers in the subject of suicide, has found that one of the most common thoughts present in those who are suicidal is the idea of being a burden on others. A second was that of being "hopelessly alienated, cut off and isolated from others”—a feeling of not belonging. Both of these speak to the power of our relationships and communities, whether or not we realize it.
The more we walk through our struggles in silence, the more we deprive others of the benefit of knowing they are not alone. Knowing the truth about the issues is vital, but we can get it from a textbook or Google in just a moment. Unless it is connected with real people, it lacks the power needed to combat stigma. We have to move beyond an awareness of the issues and become truly aware of each other.
Real relationships are the true antidote to the separation that stigma breeds between “healthy” and “sick.” Relationships require us to see the real person who is suffering, struggling, recovering, and healing. They are the place in which we find hope and encouragement to keep fighting, and the place where lies are defeated with truth and compassion. This is the path toward hope and healing—for ourselves and each other—and ultimately, toward a society where stigma, shame, and suicide are struggles of the past.